It was a lonely stretch of road, and Tamarra never expected to encounter anyone there. Usually that was fine; she wasn’t the sort who needed company at all times, and she was never too far from a city, so it wasn’t a great burden when she did have such a craving.

At any rate, she was caught off guard when Saldarin came to a halt, the worg lifting his head and looking to the left, upwind. By the set of his ears – and the very fact that he’d stopped at all instead of just sniffing and listening as he trotted along – it was either a person, or an animal that didn’t belong around here – which would probably mean people again.

Tamarra leaned onto one stirrup, swinging off of the great worg’s back and dropping down to the scrubgrass. With one hand on Saldarin’s shoulder to keep him close, she gestured with the other; the worg flicked his ears and started forward, the tread of his leather-booted paws almost lost under the whistle of the wind. Even as they strode forward together, Tamarra focused her will, shaping a bubble of force to repel the rain that would soon be upon them.

Coming over a small rise, she saw a man – one man, obviously hunting for cover against the rain. She was about to call out to him, to offer the shelter of her magic, when he removed his cloak.

What in the world – ? His movements, while swift and urgent, were too measured to be those of a madman. But first his cloak, then his tunic – Tamarra swallowed. She ought to speak up, to let him know she was there, but she was at once puzzled and transfixed. It certainly wasn’t every day she saw a man not bundling up against a chilly rain, but stripping down… especially not such a fine figure of a man, sleek and fit.

At her touch and gesture, Saldarin curled up in a little hollow in the hillside to rest, and she sat, leaning against him. There was something about this man – an inner glow of some kind of magic, but one that felt unfamiliar, foreign… and fascinating.

And that magic was changing him somehow; she swallowed a gasp as his skin darkened, going from a healthy tan to… it might well have been black, but the fur he was also sprouting made it hard to be sure. Fine, rich fur it looked to be, too, fiery orange striped with inky black.

Nor was that the extent of it; his shape was changing, too, head and legs reshaping, a tail growing out from the base of his spine. The result was obviously feline in character, but the body was still recognizable as the same man’s.

Fascinating. She’d read of such beings, but the tales had always presented them as horrifying monsters. What she actually saw had enough of the animal to be exotic and intriguing, but was still very much a man – a fine, appealing one at that.

And as he turned to lean on the tree in which he’d stored his belongings, she was quite clearly reminded of the fact that he was entirely unclad, too.

Tamarra was no stranger to sex; she knew her body well enough, she fancied, and she’d known those of some quite pleasant men in her years. And though she was far enough that she couldn’t see every detail, this, she fancied, was a body that would be quite pleasant as well. Rain-slick fur hid what detail wasn’t obscured by the veil of rain between them, but she could picture the muscle underlying that pelt.

Absently, she ran a hand along Saldarin’s side. The worg’s fur was thick and coarse; a cat’s tended to be softer, at least for the smaller sorts. What might a man’s body feel like, with that layer of fur between his skin and her hand?

Though there was certainly one place that wouldn’t have that barrier.

No, Tamarra was no stranger to sex. But even at this distance, the raw need with which the man stroked himself was a palpable force. Her gaze didn’t linger on his midsection; she couldn’t see much anyway, especially with his hand in the way. But as that gaze swept upward, she took in the arch of his body, the heaving of his chest, the tension in the arm he leaned on, the angle of his head, his parted jaws…

This man gave himself to his pleasure with an intensity that was an utter delight. She wondered how he might feel under her touch, if he would tremble in the wake of his release, and couldn’t help but shiver herself.

It all happened so fast, there was no time to be ashamed at the way she was observing him without his knowledge. From the first whirl of motion as he doffed his cloak to the full sight of his body, before and after it changed, to the sudden surge that could only be his release – it was so quick she couldn’t even gather her thoughts, and every moment was wondrous.

As his tension visibly subsided, Tamarra bit her lip. Hers was the task of minding these roads; she ought to question him, learn where he was bound and whence he came. But her circuit was nearly done, now, and she’d made good time; she could afford to linger. Maybe, if his mind proved as pleasant as his body, he could indulge her curiosity?

And maybe – she shivered at the thought – something else?

She pushed up to her feet and clicked her tongue; Saldarin pushed upright and shook dust and grass off of himself; and she started down the hill, with the worg padding along beside her. Her mind raced, trying to think of what she might say – should she be apologetic? Or forthright? She didn’t want to embarrass him any more than her mere presence at this moment might… but she had her duty, and couldn’t simply let him move along unquestioned. Modesty, on his part or hers, could not interfere with that duty.

She squared her shoulders, prayed that the duty would prove a pleasant one, and strode closer.